Johnson on the ‘best way forward’ for Brexit and Northern Ireland

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Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt claimed Rishi Sunak’s latest Brexit agreement with the EU Commission fails to address the “Brexit malaise”. The arch-Remainer called for the UK’s departure from the bloc to be reversed as he commented on the agreement signed by the Prime Minister and Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.

He tweeted: “PM Sunak says ‘There’s unfinished business on Brexit’. Yes..reversing it!

“This deal might be welcome, but it addresses the symptoms, not the Brexit malaise.”

Mr Verhofstadt has long campaigned for Brexit to be cancelled, lashing out against the current and past UK Prime Minister’s efforts to move forward outside the EU.

Britain and the European Union sealed a deal on Monday to resolve their thorny post-Brexit trade dispute over Northern Ireland, hailing the agreement as the start of a “new chapter” in their often fractious relationship.

Sunak and von der Leyen announced the grandly titled “Windsor Framework” after agreeing to the final details in Windsor, near London.

Von der Leyen told a news conference it was “historic what we have achieved today.” Sunak said there had been a “decisive breakthrough.”

The agreement, which will allow goods to flow freely to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, ends a dispute that has soured UK-EU relations, sparked the collapse of the Belfast-based regional government and shaken Northern Ireland’s decades-old peace process.

Fixing it ends a long-running irritant for von der Leyen and is a big victory for Sunak — but not the end of his troubles. Selling the deal to his own Conservative Party and its Northern Irish allies in the DUP may be a tougher struggle.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member, the Republic of Ireland. When the UK left the bloc in 2020, the two sides agreed to keep the Irish border free of customs posts and other checks because an open border is a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process.

Instead, there are checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK That angered British unionist politicians in Belfast, who say the new trade border in the Irish Sea undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

The Democratic Unionist Party collapsed Northern Ireland’s Protestant-Catholic power-sharing government a year ago in protest and has refused to return until the rules are scrapped or substantially rewritten.

READ MORE: Brexit deal LIVE – Sunak quietly dropped ‘nuclear option’

The party’s leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said there had been “significant progress” but “key issues of concern” remained. He said the party would study the details before responding.

The devil, as ever, will be in those details, and the two sides emphasised different elements of the deal.

Sunak said the new rules “removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea” by eliminating checks and paperwork for the vast majority of goods entering Northern Ireland. Only those destined to travel onward to EU member Ireland will be checked.

He said Northern Ireland’s lawmakers would be able to block any changes to EU goods laws that applied to them by using an emergency mechanism labelled the “Stormont Brake” after the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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“Today’s agreement delivers smooth-flowing trade within the whole United Kingdom, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union and safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland,” Sunak said on Monday.

Von der Leyen stressed that the EU’s borderless single market would be protected by safeguards including “IT access, labels and enforcement procedures” and said the European Court of Justice would remain “the sole and ultimate arbiter of EU law.”

The role of the European court in resolving any disputes that arise over the rules has been the thorniest issue in the talks.

The UK and the EU agreed in their Brexit divorce deal to give the European court that authority. But the DUP and Conservative Party eurosceptics insist the court must have no jurisdiction in UK matters.

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